I arrived in Spain at the end of January. My first few days in Spain were full of sightseeing, tours and adventures in the cities of Madrid and Toledo. I met up with other students in my program in the airport and we all headed off to orientation. We’re a group of 25 something students, more or less, who are all completing a similar course of study at Cursos Internacionales de La Universidad de Salamanca. Some people are here for business, others have paired their major with a Spanish minor, and I’ve even met a few future Spanish teachers too. Overall, it’s a great group, and now I have some familiar faces in the city of Salamanca.
Our program stayed together in hotels those first few days, where we also had a few orientation-type meetings to help us understand exactly how things were going to go once we arrived in Salamanca. We basically got to be tourists for a few days before completely immersing ourselves in the Spanish city life of Salamanca.
I arrived in Salamanca a few days later and I finally got to meet my host family and unpack! My host mom gave me such a warm welcome to Salamanca and I am so happy that my homestay placement is working out. She is a single woman with two daughters (ages 24 and 26). This family has actually been hosting international students for 20 years! My host mom is the sweetest person, and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be living here for the next few months. They also have two turtles. The turtles spend their days out on the terrace and have the freedom to roam around as they please.
On the following Monday morning, the group met at La Plaza Mayor and headed over to one of the university buildings to take our placement test. Later that afternoon, we stumbled upon our results posted right on the wall. Of the four language levels, I scored the highest level – superior. Then, I began my first classes the next day! This semester, I am taking 5 Spanish courses. I genuinely enjoy going to class here because I am learning from Spanish professors, being instructed solely in Spanish, and I’m just excited! This is what I love to do. Here in Salamanca, no one speaks English. It’s the best way to learn a foreign language.
The building where I have class is about a 20 minute walk from my house, a bit different from the dreaded five minutes between Antone and O’Hare. Living in a city, you have to walk everywhere. Even if it’s raining, cold, or up-hill (I’m still adjusting to this). That also means that I need to wake up earlier for class to allow sufficient time to get there. My earliest class starts at 9am, my later days 10:30am, and I’m done by 1:30pm each day. Just in time to get home for lunch at 2pm! I’m really happy with my class schedule because it leaves me with free afternoons to go exploring – I mean, do schoolwork.
I have also started my English teaching certificate program at a local elementary school in Salamanca. I’m volunteering as a native English speaker to teach classes of conversational English to Spanish children. I have two small classes of 5th and 6th grade students twice a week. These classes are in addition to the students’ regular English classes. At the end of the program, I’ll even get a super fancy certificate from the Spanish Ministry of Education!
I was so excited to get back into the classroom. I get to teach my own classes, and have a lot of freedom to plan my own lessons. The goal is to help each of the kids advance their spoken English, no matter what level they may be at.
Additionally, I have also acquired three English tutoring jobs with local families. I am working individually with three students to help them with their English grammar and conversation. The youngest student is 11, another is 16 and the oldest is 18. Both of these opportunities are really great ways for me to actively practice my teaching skills, even if I’m teaching in English. The process of language learning is still the same. I am so happy I can provide these kids with the opportunity to work with a native speaker, because I’ve been there. I know how important those interactions can be. The kids also keep me thinking. I often will translate from Spanish to English for them when they need help with a word.
I’m also enjoying meeting up with local Spaniards for “intercambios” (language exchanges) where we Speak in both Spanish and English and help each other out. It’s a great way to meet locals, practice your target language and make new friends abroad!
Overall, I am so happy here in Salamanca. I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already!